Isolation when borders fully reopen would be ‘massive handbrake’

Source: 1News

A tourism operator on the South Island’s West Coast says any self-isolation when the country’s borders fully reopen in October would be a “massive handbrake”.

Fox Glacier Guiding CEO Rob Jewell told Breakfast: “If New Zealand is to open and sell with confidence and let the world know we’re open, that seven or 10-day isolation depending on which phase we’re in, is going to be a massive handbrake on demand.

“I really struggle to see that people are going to want to come to New Zealand and spend seven or 10 days of their holiday in self-isolation.”

In a five-step plan announced on Thursday, the border is pegged to fully reopen to visitors from anywhere around the world in October.

READ MORE: What you need to know about NZ's border reopening

It is unclear at this stage if any form of self-isolation will be required by then. It is required in step one and two, which begin at 11.59pm on February 27 and March 13 respectively.

These steps will first see vaccinated Kiwis and “other eligible travellers” from Australia able to enter, followed by vaccinated Kiwis and other eligible travellers from the rest of the world.

“If we're to have any chance of rebuilding our struggling international tourism sector, the Government must remove that self-isolation requirement for visitors as soon as it can,” Jewell reiterated.

“It’s just not going to keep us connected to the world, it’s actually going to disconnect us. It’s just not going to work.”

Prior to Covid-19, Jewell told Breakfast he had a team of 65. That number is now 15.

READ MORE: Northland businesses, tourism operators crying out for visitors

He said the last two years had been a long and tough haul, so he wanted to have some certainty moving forward.

“It’s certainly helpful to have those dates, but still a lot of uncertainty remains. This is the third border announcement we’ve had for border reopening dates and so there’s still a bit of hesitation. Will they actually happen? We’ve been disappointed twice before, so it’s helpful we’ve got some dates there but the uncertainty still just sits there that will it actually happen.”

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins earlier told Breakfast the Government could not give guarantees on what might happen in six months, but did say "those first couple of dates ... are locked in now".

“What I can say is we will keep that under constant review [border fully reopening in October].”

He said the Government did consider the impact of waiting until October to fully reopen the border but added most tourists could enter the country from July at the latest due to visa-waiver travel.

A “minority” of tourists from non visa-waiver countries would be able to come in from October, he said, so it was not “super accurate” to say tourism is not happening until October.